OPINION: A lot has been said about the decision by News24 to shut down their comments sections. But very little is being said about the gross inaccuracies that emanate from citizen journalism and social media, says Chris Moerdyk.
A few television news networks do occasionally give a somewhat limp-wristed warning about the veracity of the facts from mobile phone footage or tweets they have received from someone or other in the thick of a breaking news story.
But largely, the information highway has become a spaghetti junction of information that quite simply cannot really be trusted.
One only has to subscribe to any of the global social media offerings to realise how so many people go off pop without checking facts or sometimes even thinking.
It is small wonder why young people have started in a big way to shun conventional media as well as almost every form of online citizen journalism.
As a group of young graduates fresh out of university explained to me recently: “We don’t listen to the radio, we don’t read newspapers and we don’t watch TV – least of all the news. We stay informed by relying on our circle of friends – people we know and trust who can give us honest opinions on what is going on in the world. We have our own information networks, our own music and our own video.”
I decided to put them on the spot and started asking questions about local politics, disasters as well as global issues of the day, fully expecting them to admit to having their heads pretty much buried in the sand.
I was taken aback at how informed they were and I gained considerable respect for the power of their “networks”.
This, of course, is something that has put the mass media and marketers in a fix because the only way they will be able to reach this influential and potentially moneyed audience in future will be by breaking in to their personal networks. And they only way they will be able to do this will be to offer certified value on a person-to-person basis.
The problem with today’s world is that the majority of people who make the headlines in the mass media and those ordinary people, who used to comment on News24 and other sites, all had hidden agendas. Some obvious, as in the case of politicians, and some not so obvious like in the case of someone who might comment with a vehemence that many might accept as passion but which in all probability was just pushing a personal agenda, either in the interests of bigotry, racism or social alignment.
It has become a tough world out there both for those who believe they are producing credible information and for those trying to find credible information.
The situation becomes exacerbated when, in an effort to build readership, viewership and listenership, mass media resort to sensationalism and contrived controversy.
Small wonder that young people today don’t read newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV.
Getting their trust back is going to take titanium testicles and frankly, I am not convinced that our news media have any balls at all right now.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk.
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